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Rest is Best

May 21, 2021

Written by Rosie Edwards.

We are runners. And for many of us (as runners), our mentality is to GO, GO, GO! We love to push the boundaries of what we think our bodies can do and live to test the waters in order to gain that extra 1%.

But have you ever stopped to think about how our bodies absorb all of the hard work that we put in?

Insert the HOLY GRAIL of training, REST.

rest_is_best







You might notice the Runcoach schedule has a "6 day max" of run day assignments.  Why does every individual need at least one day off? Let's find out:


- Recovery: Training is a stimulus or stress which elicits a response. We stress our bodies through physical activity. It is within recovery that we see sper compendation of fitness development through cellular adaptation, further capillarization in the legs muscles, and improved blood chemistry to move oxygen to your working muscles. 


- Injury prevention:
It’s no secret that running can be hard on the body. Many of us are road runners. We pound away at the concrete in preparation for our next big opportunity to go fast. Our muscles, joints and bones need a break from this.

 

- Mental breaks: Sure, running is fun, and it can be a great stress reliever. However, a rigorous training program can be mentally challenging, too. A rest day helps to give you time to enjoy other hobbies and avoid burnout.


- Replenishing glycogen stores
: When training we use the glycogen in our muscles for energy and it can be a training regimen in itself to keep these stores topped up through adequate nutrition. A rest day provides you with a day to top them up in preparation for your next big run.

 

So next time that you put your feet up, feel good about it. The rest is part of your training too, after all.



calendarLike the recipe of your favorite dish, your runcoach training plan combines many difference types of ingredients.  Each of these ingredients are important, even as some of them come in large quantities and some are just a pinch of salt on top of a mound of flour in the bowl.

 

Your runcoach pace chart provides a wide array of paces for various types of workouts prescribed on your individualized schedule,.  Your marathon, maintenance, 80% and half marathon paces are paces your body should be able to handle for long durations – paces at which your cardiovascular system can keep up with the oxygen demand of your muscles for extended periods of time.  Even though you may not be out of breath during this type of running, your muscles are building more extensive and efficient pathways for oxygen and energy delivery.  In addition, your mind is preparing for the lengthy race task ahead.  If you are using a heart rate monitor, this running is done somewhere in the range of 65-85% of your maximum.

 

While some “Pace Runs” on your schedule might be prescribed at slower paces, “threshold” running is designed to challenge you at a comfortably hard level.  This pace should be sustainable for a shorter period of time, say 20-25 minutes, but should not feel easy to continue much beyond that duration. It should also not feel hard after just a few minutes of running.  This area of pacing helps to challenge your body to become more efficient with handling a steadily accumulating blood lactate level (something you will have to do in races shorter than a half marathon).  Threshold workouts are ideally executed at about 88-92% of your maximum heart rate.

 

Crossing the “threshold” literally and figuratively, leads us to paces that can only be performed for shorter, more challenging periods of time.  Balancing intervals or repetitions with just enough rest or active recovery allows an athletes to spend a significant cumulative period of time at a quick pace and high heart rate, conditioning the body and mind to operate effectively and efficiently at that level of demand, which is ideally in the mid to high 90s of maximum heart rate percentage.  If one ran a series of 800m intervals at 4:00 with 90 seconds recovery, each successive interval would see the athlete’s heart rate shoot up more and more quickly within the 4:00, but ideally not so quickly that the athlete could not complete the interval at the prescribed pace.  This effect may result in the first couple intervals of a workout feeling slightly easier than anticipated, tempting the athlete to run faster than the prescribed paces.  While this may seem logical – to run harder initially and shoot the heart rate to the moon on the first interval – the workout is designed to create its effect by the end of the session.  What may seem like a comfortable pace on the first interval turns out to be a misguided assessment as the athlete slows down precipitously at the end or requires way more rest than assigned.

 

Some athletes may wonder why an 800m or 1500m pace might even be assigned to them as they train for a half or full marathon.  Although the bulk of an endurance race training schedule includes work preparing for the paces, energy efficiency, heart rate demand, and mental effort of the longer races, workouts prescribed with some quicker paces allow an athlete to work on running economy.  Workouts or even strides on your schedule at 800m or 1500m pace provide a valuable opportunity for athletes to challenge the fundamentals of their running stride, to teach their legs to have a bit more range of motion in the stride, to strengthen their feet to push off the ground more effectively, quickly, and with strength.  Although they may seem inconsequential in the larger picture, even small improvements in this area can result in large gains considering how many thousands of strides we take during the course of our general training.

 

While it is normal and natural to feel more at home with one type of workout over another, avoid the inclination to slough off the types of workouts that seem unfamiliar or not in your wheelhouse.  Each of the paces prescribed in your schedule has a purpose.  Commit to executing each workout with mindfulness and a sense of purpose.  This is your best chance of turning out a race day “dish” you’ll remember for years.



Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?



Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at info@runcoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Taper

April 01, 2021

beach_running

Updated by Rosie Edwards

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.

 

You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.

 

The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.

 

Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.

 

As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.

 

Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.

 

Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.

 



RunnerUpdated by Rosie Edwards

While we have many athletes who have been training with runcoach for years, we also love the constant influx of beginning runners or runners now tackling their first challenging goal race. 

On the blog, we talk about all sorts of topics, but we also have an extensive archive of short pieces detailing some of the most fundamental aspects of running.  So, whether you could use a quick refresher, or have been anxious to ask these questions but too shy to reach out, here is a sample of some tips we believe can help you reach your full potential!

 






Tips for running hills

 

What to do with your arms while running

 

How to breathe while running

 

How to choose the right shoe

 

What is a taper and how do I do it well

 

The art of hydration

 

Avoiding the post-run bonk

 

The mechanics of the running stride

 

Beyond these few topics, there are dozens of articles on our blog covering everything under the sun.  We have Q&As about almost every imaginable ache and pain with experienced practitioners, interviews with professional and world class athletes, and even a few profile of fellow runcoach athletes like yourself.  Check it out!



When should I change my running shoes?

This is one of the most common questions among runners of all levels. The condition and life within your shoes have a huge impact on your body, and quality of your training sessions.

Below is an exchange between Coach Hiruni and Runcoach Athlete and avid endurance runner Andrei Marinus.

Andrei: I run over 200k per month, and a good pair of shoes (even on sale is easily over 100USD). So here’s the million-dollar question… When do I have to change them again?

Coach Hiruni: Excellent question. Most folks who take running seriously search for an answer to this question. There are general guidelines some shoe manufacturers have (400-600km or 250 – 400 miles) for wear and tear, but not everyone wears shoes the same way.

Andrei: Yes, I noticed very few of them mention a higher mileage. It could be the shoe company tries to sell as much as they can. But I also understand the reasoning - after a certain mileage, the shoe loses its advertised features, and stop protecting the runner.

Coach Hiruni: As a coach I am also reluctant to recommend running high mileage in one shoe, because I have the best interest of my runners at heart. I want you and my other runners to be protected when you leave your door for a run, and continue to stack up days, weeks, months of consistent training. There are aspects on your shoe and within your legs you can use as a guide to know it is time to upgrade your footwear.

Andrei: So it seems, the best judge should be the runner? I should listen to my body. Once I start to receive signs of pain or discomfort or simply just not the same bounce as before, it is a signal.  Though pain is universal, everyone experiences it differently. For me it is usually a bit of tightness in the ligaments around the ankle. I have ignored this in the past, telling myself that some Kenyan runners are doing marathons on bare feet, so if I keep running in worn out shoes, I would still be protected. How I wished I didn’t do that … I ended up at an orthopedist who promptly put me offline for two months. Imagine how I felt going from over 200km to zero … Let’s just say I had learned my lesson, and ever since I am really listening to my body.

Coach Hiruni: Agreed. Some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. Most people can also tell by simply looking at the bottom of the sole of the shoe. The tread (just like a tire) should look fresh. If you notice pieces missing, or the shoe just looks “old and tired” that’s a red flag! For some people this can happen as early as 200km into wearing a shoe.

Andrei: Right on that point. Look at the sole of the shoes that I ran in when I got my marathon PB and my first ultra-marathon. They will be always close to my heart, but I know they have to go. There is almost nothing left at the back the shoe, right where I land.

 pic1   pic_2

I am running in zero drops, you can imagine with no sole left at the heel, I kind of converted them into negative drops…



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Runcoach plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. We wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



What To Do When Your Goal Race Gets Delayed?
Don’t Give Up.

amanda_2As the global pandemic nears year one, the mass participation road racing scene is still far from normal. The optimist in you hoped 2021 would finally be the year in which live road race returned to its full glory. Still, races are getting postponed (with valid reason) to the second half of the year. How long should you hold out hope?  What to do with extra time?


First and foremost, absolutely hold on to that optimism! Your favorite road race, standing among strangers, butterflies in your stomach, and the minty muscle cream scent in the air will return. But I empathize with you, as my own race opportunities dwindle away each month. You’re allowed to feel disappointed. Allow yourself the time to go through the stages of coping using the techniques below.


1) Work On Weaknesses

Life is all about perspective. In any circumstance, the way you frame it allows you to move forward. I encourage you to see the delay as extra time to prepare (different from extra time to wait to start).

We all have areas of opportunities to develop and refine. Whether it’s physical (shin splints, weak glutes, runner’s knee, tendonitis), a target weight-loss goal, or mental (anxiety, mental strength to dig deep when it feels hard) the additional months can be invaluable to prepare your body and mind to have an exceptional race when it’s “go time”.


2) Scale Back

A common topic I discuss with my athletes is over-training. It’s the quickest way to kill your joy for running. If your goal race is a half marathon or longer, and the race is postponed, there is no additional benefit to keep loading up on miles. Instead, shift your focus to maintain fitness and find smaller goals to excite you.


3) Setup Time Trials

If this is a new word for you, think of a “Time Trial” as a practice race. Having a goal that you can chase on your own terms can be a big win (especially given the uncertainty  in today’s world). Time trials can help to gauge your fitness, practice pace, try out race tactics, go through race day logistics like type of breakfast, and hone in on the mental side of racing.

Jeff_brune_boston_2Runcoach athlete Jeff is in a similar situation to many BQ athletes. He was hopeful Boston 2021 would go on in April. Most of his preparation in 2020 was done with hope of running a memorable 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. With the recent news of Boston getting pushed back to the Fall, he’s once again reassessing his training.

Jeff wrote, “I want to chase a half marathon PR, even at altitude I think my old PR is vulnerable”.  That’s all a coach needs to hear, a spark of motivation. We decided on a half marathon time trial about a month out from the initial discussion, with training specifically focused on crushing his current personal best.


4) Explore Off-Road

Without a tight timeline to get ready for “race day” you have a free pass to run on trails, grass, packed snow (stay upright though!). Simply do something different to shake up your usual routes.

Doing so will not only help you see some different scenery, but it will challenge your body to activate muscle groups you don’t normally use while running on a flat road.



In short, when things change... don’t quit. Instead adapt and move forward with your running shoes ON!



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